“It will never happen to me, I’m too careful to fall from a treestand.”

These are famous last words by too many hunters. I should know: I muttered those very same words this past August, the night before I went to do some scouting. That trip eventually led me to hang a ladder stand by myself in preparation for the upcoming Illinois bow season.

And I learned a valuable lesson the hard way.

I knew better than to venture off to hang a treestand by myself, but I allowed arrogance and my years of “experience” to get in the way. I wish I could tell you exactly what happened, but I don’t remember exactly. After going back and looking at the accident scene, it looks like I was on the top rung of the ladder trying to get the ratchet strap around the tree when the stand twisted and gravity won. I fell to the ground.

The next thing I remember is waking up on the ground, blood running down my shirt and arms. Too afraid to move, I gingerly retrieved my phone from my pocket and called for help. Within minutes my nephew was with me, soon followed by our local volunteer fire and ambulance personnel, who carried me out of the woods.

Bypassing our local hospitals, I was transported to the nearest trauma center 70 miles away. After being scanned, x-rayed, probed, and jabbed, I eventually went home with a concussion, a lot of bruises and sore muscles, and a line of staples in my head to close the wound that led to all the blood.

I’m very lucky that all I had were those injuries, and that I was able to leave the emergency room without a hospital stay, or worse. Far too many hunters end up with broken bones, varying degrees of paralysis, and some even die when they fall from treestands. The vast majority of these accidents are preventable, and hunters must be careful, vigilant, and consistent in using good equipment and safe practices. There are so many good accessories on the market that there should never be a treestand accident — if hunters would just use them.

Frankly, I’m kind of embarrassed that I lost this tug-of-war with gravity because I really try to be careful. However, if my example can help other hunters, I’m willing to be an example.
People have asked me what I was thinking – hanging a stand by myself. On this particular day, I ventured out to check some trail cameras and had nothing else planned. Finding a trail that was being frequented by a mature buck, I decided on the fly to move one of my stands a few yards closer to the trail. To me it didn’t seem like a big deal to move the stand a few trees over while I was already in the area. But, in the back of my mind, I knew better than to try this without the proper safety equipment, not notifying others of my intentions, and doing this without the aid of another person. But I did it anyway.

I prefer to hunt from ladder stands. Mainly because I feel safer in this type of stand, and I like the roominess they provide. The problem with these stands is that they can easily twist when you are hanging them, making it a two-person job to do it safely. Even then, there is a safety device that can improve the safety level in this process.

Skyline Safety System has taken much of the danger out of hanging a ladder stand. They have developed a device that allows the top of the ladder stand to be ratcheted tightly around the tree, allowing the hunter to safely climb the ladder to secure the stand without the risk of falling.

Skyline Safety System ladder stand model mounts to most ladder stand’s back bar and will allow you to secure your ladder stand prior to stepping off the ground. The patented system is made of lightweight, high-strength aluminum with two pivot arms that close using a pulley system and a ratchet strap. You simply place the stand up against the tree. The ratchet strap closes the pivot arms tight around the tree, allowing you to secure your stand prior to stepping off the ground. This device comes with a universal mount kit and attaches to most ladder stands, has a durable powder coated finish, includes all straps and connectors, and weighs less than 5 pounds.

Besides the safety system, they have sticks that also lock on to the tree before a hunter ever has to take the first step off the ground. This could be the safest and fastest way to place a hang-on stand, allowing you to securely climb 18 feet, with a weight capacity of 300 pounds. In addition, they offer a lifeline securing system that allows a hunter to safely secure a lifeline to the tree prior to stepping off the ground.

After talking with Peter Brown, owner of Skyline Safety System, I will be using his products the next time I hang a stand. Even if another person is with me to hold the stand, the added protection of having the stand securely attached to the tree could still be the difference between having an accident or not.

It should go without saying to always have a safety harness and lifeline on from the moment your foot first leaves the ground until you are safely grounded again. I preach this to my children and to other hunters. But, on the day of my accident, I let my wish to have a treestand moved to a new location override common sense and safety. That was a mistake that could have easily cost me my life.

Let me repeat that – my desire to get something done quickly and ignoring basic safety rules was a mistake that could have easily cost me my life.

The safety harness and lifeline I use are from Hunter Safety System (HSS), and I’ve used their gear for years. There are other good companies that make safety gear out there, and it does not matter the brand of safety harness or lifeline you use, as long as you use one every time.

New on the market for this hunting season is the ElimiShield safety harness from Hunter Safety System. Just as the name implies, this harness is made to combat bacteria and aid in your scent control efforts.

As HSS describes it: “Unlike silver and other technologies used in other products, the ElimiShield-treated article mechanically kills odor-causing bacteria, which cannot develop immunity to it. The product is long lasting, environmentally friendly, non-leaching, non-irritating and non-poisonous. It also protects the products from ‘souring’ after being exposed to sweat and moisture while in use and then packed away in storage during the off-season.”

The new Hybrid, Elite, and Contour harnesses featuring the ElimiShield Scent Control Technology will also have new MOLLE attachment points on the shoulders to attach a flashlight for hands-free illumination while in the field. This is especially important while ascending and descending the treestand in the dark before and after the hunt.

Many treestand accidents can be prevented with a little preparation in advance and using the proper equipment. I’m not saying there is not the chance of something going wrong even when you are properly attached to a tree; it just isn’t as likely.

Remember that there are people counting on you to come home after a deer hunt. Your loved ones expect you to come back in the same condition as when you left. Don’t be selfish and put your loved ones at risk of losing you.

The next time you hang a treestand, do it like your life depends on it. Because it does.